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ntegrative Medicine
Body Odor: Recent Research Shows it Can be a Serious Problem

© Leon Chaitow ND, DO, MRO

In such cases 'repopulation' of the intestines with healthy friendly bacteria as well as regular short detoxification efforts can be extremely are helpful in both helping to help normalise intestinal flora and to remove toxic debris from the system.

Anyone with B.O. - of any type - should supplement daily with good quality Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria in order to boost their intestinal flora quality.

In addition detoxification via a one day juice or water or fruit only day, two or three times a month (all day Saturday for example) is a useful strategy (but not for people on prescription medication, diabetics or people with eating disorders without supervision by a qualified health care professional).

A balanced diet is also called for if B.O. is a problem, ideally one in which 20% of the diet comes from protein (fish, poultry or vegetarian combinations of pulses and grains), 20% of the diet can come from oils and fats (avoiding animal fats as much as possible) with the balance from vegetables, fruit, pulses and grains.

This should be supported by a daily high potency multivitamin /multimineral supplement.

  • Some people (about 7% of people complaining of body odour) do not completely digest particular foods because of in-born enzyme deficiencies, or due to acquired digestive problems, and this leads to a body odour in which a strong 'fishy' smell is noted -especially around period time (or when the contraceptive pill is being used). The substance which causes this smell is called trimethylamine.2

Dietary changes - particularly reducing foods rich in the amino acids carnitine and lysine and more importantly foods rich in lecithin and choline - can reduce the intensity of the problem in these severe cases.

Researchers emphasise that apart from diet this form of B.O. will be aggravated during menstruation, when there is a fever or when the person is under stress.

When B.O. has this fish-like smell increased care is needed over food selection because studies in London2 have shown that diet irritates this usually inherited condition.

Foods rich in the amino acid carnitine are known to leave residues in the intestines which have to be worked on by the natural flora (friendly bacteria). If very specific enzymes (known as flavin monooxygenases) which break the residues down to an odourless state ready for excretion are in poor supply or are missing (or if the bowel flora are disturbed) the characteristic fish-like odour appears.

For people with this particular 'fish odour' form of B.O. the following foods which are rich in lecithin or choline or carnitine/lysine should be avoided or kept to a small part of the daily diet.

These include:
Chocolate, peanuts, nuts, raisins, cereals. (carnitine/lysine) Eggs, soya products, corn, wheatgerm. (choline/lecithin)

Instead of these there needs to be greater emphasis on eating vegetables, rice and fruit - with fish or poultry as protein sources for non-vegetarians.

Although true 'Fish Odour Syndrome' is probably the worst sort of B.O. - it fortunately affects a relatively small number of people - and the strategies outlined above can usually deal with its worst aspects.

1. Bryce-Smith D Hodgkinson L The Zinc Solution Century Arrow 1986

2. Ayesh R et al The Fish Odour Syndrome : Biochemical, familial and clinical aspects. British Medical Journal 1993;307pp655-657

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About The Author
A practicing naturopath, osteopath, and acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, with over forty years clinical experience, Chaitow is Editor-in-Chief, of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. He regularly lectures in the United States as well as Europe where he instructs......more
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